The Naming of Things

These days I move furniture around rooms in the new house using a marginally accurate graph paper drawing or a map in my head. The rooms have pragmatic by-purpose names.

By labeling book boxes to indicate destination, I hope to direct the movers to the bookcases on the landing, in the living room, or my workroom (more a space than a room). The upstairs bedroom will be my husband’s study, a guest room, and the television space (known in some circles as an adult lounge). For now I write “upstairs bedroom” on the boxes.

And there are so many boxes of books – my new neighbor came one afternoon, and we filled 19 boxes, a number since doubled. Piled up in stacks, they surround little islands of ever-shrinking comfortable regular life.

In a recent adjustment to my mental map, Granny Trudy’s desk will go on the landing. My father-in-law shipped it to us in Alaska, and it became the place for family business. The slanted, drop down desktop made a good place to write checks, back when we paid bills with paper.

Thinking about that desk being forever Granny Trudy’s desk made me consider how families identify things. We had “Jake’s cabinet” in the house in Anchorage, glass-fronted shelves with drawers below, built long ago by Jake the carpenter. In that house, ownership of bedrooms shifted around so many times that names changed frequently (sometimes rooms are identified by cardinal direction no matter who occupies the south bedroom).

A wicker chair, always Frances’s chair, is now downstairs, substituting for an armchair gone to a clever seamstress to be slipcovered. Inspired by Mrs. Hughes’ advice and the designer Anna Spiro, the newly covered-in-ticking chair might be called after Spiro or maybe Simone for the seamstress!

Traces of the past will remain in the garden nomenclature here – the Buffalito bed, the bride’s garden, the quad garden. Front and back of this house has always been difficult to label – is the front toward the drive or toward the bluff? There is a clear front to the new house, car parked right near the front door.

Some impulse to fill the new house in comforting familiarity operates on me, but it is countered by reminders to enjoy the chance to rearrange – and rename!

7 thoughts on “The Naming of Things

  1. Katy, I have always loved the adventure of the move. It looks as if you and Paige are engineering a move at the same time – she to a home in Colorado which we have named the ponderosa and you to be my neighbor, a “townie.” I’m enjoying both adventures in moving vicariously.

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  2. I love the idea of the quilt of sketchbook pages! I have so many inherited treasures that I’m tempted to try this.

  3. Oh! That quilt! How fun to see that. I have always felt that I “knew” Granny Trudy just from seeing all your treasures named after her. It’s amazing how those names stick and stick. When we first had our place in Portland, our son would often stay overnight there with us in the spare room. Since then the grandchildren always refer to the room as “Uncle Paul’s” room, no matter what it’s used for.

  4. I love this post too and identify with it. Grandmother Charity’s Persian carpet, Grandmother Pearl’s buffet etc. I love the many ways you’re entering into this move: art, writing, personal history.

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